Chelsey Feekin had a lot to think about on Thursday night, and not a lot of time to think.
Wichita’s State’s standout senior setter was conscious of getting the ball to the hot hand, but just about everyone on WSU’s volleyball team had one. That means she often had a decision to make, and she had to make it in the time it takes for a ball to come down.
Feekin managed to spread the wealth, and WSU hitters Elizabeth Field, Ashley Andrade and Ashlyn Driskill, individually and collectively, produced. The trio combined for 37 kills and a .525 hitting percentage, pacing the Shockers in their 25-20, 25-19, 25-23 win over Missouri State.
After 10 matches on the road, WSU won its home and conference opener the night before they begin play in the Shocker Classic.
“If I know they’re hitting well, I’ll keep going to them, so I think about it,” said Feekin, who had 49 assists. “But then also thinking about what’s on the other side of the net and what’s going to score best. If there’s a small blocker somewhere, I’ll keep setting to that area. There’s a lot of things that go into it, but I do think about it.”
The Shockers took control of the first set when Andrade, who had 14 kills without an error, notched two in a row to break a 7-7 tie. The next three WSU points came from Field, who delivered nine kills with one error and helped the Shockers with a similar run in the third set.
The Shockers have a versatile, occasionally unpredictable offense that found unpredictability Thursday by continuing successful patterns.
“I think we have a reputation of not repeating,” WSU coach Chris Lamb said. “I think (MSU coach) Melissa Stokes might tell you, ‘These guys never repeat.’ For Chelsey to go back – a kill, give it to her again or error, give it to her again – if it’s the right call, if it’s the right call. Maybe we’ve been too quick to change things up in the past. This year I’ve noticed that we’ve actually calmed that down and been more patient.”
WSU led almost throughout the second game, with Driskill the primary weapon in allowing the Shockers to hold their lead. WSU hit .577 in the second, spurred by a stretch in which Driskill had three of four WSU points, interrupted only by a Sam Sanders service ace.
Driskill, a sophomore from Valley Center, also scored the last three WSU points, closing out the match after MSU cut its 24-20 deficit to 24-23. Her 14 kills were one short of a career high.
“I don’t really think about my hand as much when I start to get on a roll,” Driskill said. “I have better hand contact, I think, because I feel more confident.”
WSU’s .577 second-set hitting percentage normalized in the third, and the Bears led for much of the set. Their lead never got larger than three, though, and the Shockers regained momentum with some more long-lasting individual highlights.
Field had a block and a kill during a 4-0 run that gave WSU an 18-17 lead. Sanders had back-to-back points to put the Shockers ahead 21-19, and Driskill helped the Shockers hold off MSU and improve to 10-1 with her three late points.
“Something that we’ve done this year better than last year is just (focusing on) side-out, just get that next ball,” Feekin said. “Even when they do go on a little run, they never get huge, eight-point leads on us. I think we’ve improved on keeping it close this year.”